LA-based Pinoy filmmaker joins Sundance Short Film Challenge


LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles-based Filipino is joining the Sundance Short Film Challenge, in hopes of being selected as one of five winning filmmakers who will showcase their work in the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

James Castillo, 27, is the man behind the short film called Adventures of Flowerman—a movie about an individual who migrates to the US but continues to go back to the Philippines to help in the environmental, political, and economic movement of the country.

The Sundance Short Film Challenge asked entrants to create a “unique, compelling and personal” short film about an empowering person or an optimistic story of individuals and communities who are overcoming poverty, hunger, combatting disease or improving health. The competition allowed filmmakers to follow their own tastes on style and structure when producing the movie—be it narrative fiction, documentary, imaginative, unorthodox, daring or simple—as long as it tacked issues of economic inequalities.

Castillo’s film is a documentary-style short film that features Filipinos who are advocating for climate change awareness. The central character of Flowerman introduces a concept called “Permaculture” or Permanent Agriculture/Permanent Culture—a development philosophy that believes in working hand-in-hand with Nature to provide for the people’s basic needs.

Th short film is 8 minutes long, and began filming in late 2012. According to Castillo, Flowerman discovered Permaculture around the time when Typhoon Haiyan struck Central Philippines and devastated thousands of lives.

If selected as one of the five winning entries, Castillo will receive a $10,000 prize together with an all-expense paid trip to attend the 2015 Sundance Film Festival as the special guest of Sundance Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Out of the box

With Flowerman, Castillo says that he aims to inspire Filipinos to think out of the box as they find the solutions to the country’s problems.

“I just hope that Filipinos will start to look for out of the box solutions to our problems,” Castillo said toAsian Journal.

While the filmmaker recognized that he does not have much in terms of resources, he believes that we can start building on the foundations of the nation that we want to live in, even if it’s “just on paper.”

“It does not cost anything to create a vision of the Philippines that is sustainable. Once we create that collective vision, it will be easier to mobilize people from all sectors to make that vision a reality. We just have to be daring enough to learn and create new paradigms for ourselves and our community,” Castillo said.

Castillo, who presently resides in Historic Filipinotown, was born and raised in Cebu. He was a BS Nursing student at Cebu Normal University, before he shifted to pursue Mass Communications. He told Asian Journal that he shifted his field of study a year after he decided to become a filmmaker.

Castillo moved to Los Angeles at age 19. When he found a stable job, Castillo went back to school and took up several art, film, and television classes. Later on, he formed a collective, comprised of filmmakers and other artists. Soon, Castillo began to learn more about art, film, and theater through the collective than through his school. That was when he decided to drop out and put on hold his plans of finishing a bachelor’s degree.

“Dropping out of school doesn’t mean I stopped learning. I just feel like the educational system is hindering my development both as an artist and as a person,” Castillo said.

Now, he’s busy researching for material for the feature length version of Flowerman, as well as for a book that he also wants to write.

(LA Weekend August 2-5 Sec B pg.1)

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